I arrived back in Seattle last night, from the other coast still locked in the dregs of winter, discarded road salt and broken branches. A few of my hyacynth bulbs were poking through the leaf mold, and the lilac buds were setting strong and green, but spring itself is late and dawdling in Massachusetts after the record-breaking winter snows.
Traveling back and forth has been a time warp for me this season. Seattle spring has been weeks early and everlasting. It’s raining on Phinney Ridge today, but on my coffee walk I came upon a sweet little dwarf apple in full bloom, and my heart gave a little jump of joy.
I have a thing for apple trees. No doubt because when I was four years old, my parents purchased a defunct dairy farm in Guilford, Connecticut, circa 1800’s. For the next two years they converted the main barn into a contemporary home; a 20-foot high wide-beamed peaked ceiling, the main floor entirely open end-to-end, enormous green shag carpets, haylofts enclosed for our bedrooms, open balconies connecting the upstairs. My brother and I never knew walls. So unusual was the concept, we were even in a photo spread for House Beautiful in 1964. But what I remember most were the apple orchards. Especially now, fifty-two years later, when the sight and smell of an apple tree in spring makes my fingers itch to climb a limb and lean back into scratchy bark and breathe the spicy sweetness of the blossoms, aswarm with bees.
Having open space was almost as important as reading books for the child-me. But the two went hand in hand; with whatever series I was devouring tucked under my arm, I would set out into the orchard and either lean against the warm trunk or find a low branch to scramble. Picture being lost in a Nancy Drew conundrum, thrilling to the young reader, and lulled by the low hum of bees in the pale pink cloud of craggy branches. The world falls away. The words come alive.
Yes, sometimes I napped. And sometimes spending hours reading, alone in the country, was not the best social developmental plan for me. But I love how intrinsically woven together my memories of reading and the outside world are, thanks to that crazy decision my parents made fifty-two years ago.
Give them space and they will grow. And I did.
I am a reader now. I always carry a book. I read on park benches. I read on the bus. I am the type of person that can read anywhere — case in hand, I consumed an entire light-fiction airport paperback on my coast-to-coast trip yesterday. I didn’t look up until we descended. Not the two screaming children or the turbulence lifted my head for the five-hour flight. And the little tree today reminded me that I have a stack by my bed begging to be selected and dissected, despite the hydraulic drill next door or the construction below my apartment. And when it stops raining I may just sit a while under the branches and keep a look out for bees.
Thank you, Spring.